In light of the decision that our landlords Planet Ice have taken with regards to the 2020 / 21 season and league play not commencing before 1stJanuary 2021, as club we support and respect their decision whole heartedly and confer that in this ever changing landscape we must take every step possible to ensure that the safety of all is paramount be it the rink staff, our supporters, the players or the club staff and loyal volunteers.
Owners of the NIHL National have been taking part in zoom calls and we would like to share an update on planning progress for the season ahead. As part of this we’ve been working closely with the other NIHL National teams and have together agreed to set a target start date for the NIHL National league of 1stJanuary 2021. In the lead up to that date, we are evaluating the possibilities of playing hockey matches during late November and through December with a series of challenge games and a pre-season cup competition and we’ll come back to you when we have more details.
Having these dates in the diary gives the opportunity for teams to start to put in place the arrangements needed to safely and effectively return to play. It is important to note that these are planning dates, and are subject to a number of points being resolved before teams can take to the ice. For example:
- It is highly likely that social distancing rules will still be in place and that this may restrict attendances. Whether this is a fixed number (e.g. 800) or a percentage of a venue’s capacity, (e.g. 40%) is still to be determined and will be led by local and national Government guidelines, the findings from various non-Ice Hockey test events taking place and EIHA policy. The level at which attendance is restricted will be critical as to whether it is financially viable for teams to compete.
- Some arenas are still without ice and venues would need to be operational for fixtures to take place so we are dependent on plans to re-lay ice in those venues.
- We will be consistently adopting across all NIHL venues and fixtures a defined set of COVID protocols around access and exit, locker room provision, cleanliness etc. These processes need to be finalised, agreed and rolled out. This work has now started.
- A flexible fixtures model needs to be developed to accommodate as simply as possible any fixture changes (e.g. through local lockdown), or changes to the overall season structure. This work has now started.
- The EIHA’s return to ice programme needs to have reached Level 5 for the season to begin, and at least level 4 for pre-season activities to take place.
The agreement of a planned regular season start date and the intent to run a pre-season cup competition is a very positive step in the journey of the return to live action in the UK of the game we all love. Although there are a number of hurdles to overcome, we are committed to working together with the other NIHL National teams, to do whatever we can to overcome these obstacles. The owners group will be meeting again later in September to progress these plans further and we will share updates as clearly as possible as plans develop.
With the exciting news that the arena seating has now been completed we are looking at the feasibility of hosting a “social distanced” Season Ticket “Choose Your Seat” event for supporters to visit the arena and take in the views from the seats and then complete their season ticket application on the day. More details on this event to follow.
We can confirm that as a club and a league we are monitoring the constantly changing landscape of government and PHE guidance and will update our fans accordingly.
We thank you all for your patience and understanding in these unprecedented times and like all sports, ice hockey is nothing without our loyal and noisy fanbase and we hope to be back on the ice soon.
If you have any questions please do contact us on email@example.com